Saved by the Bell
Tell us about a time when you managed to extract yourself from a sticky situation at the very last minute.
As is its custom, the Australian Federal Government is busily ‘leaking’ all the bad news that might show up in its annual budget, due to be brought down this month. It’s a testing of the waters to see how much they can get away with without being lynched, so to speak, and so far they’re looking pretty good: those who’ll be most affected are already struggling so hard to survive that they won’t have time to arrange the lynching party. The measures that might have to be shared by the ‘haves’ will be a mere flea bite on their financial corpulence. (The current government, you understand, is Liberal – ie Conservative.)
The latest piece of pre-budget kite-flying is the suggestion that health cover should cost more for smokers and the overweight.
That smokers should be hit up for more is no surprise. They are the modern equivalent of lepers – in fact I’m surprised they’re not issued with bells to ring when they venture out. Or better still, forced to buy the obligatory government-issued bell, and fined heavily if they go out without it. Mind you, given that in 2011/12, the tax on tobacco contributed $5.45 billion to the Federal coffers, it strikes me as a touch hypocritical to despise them so much – what would happen to the budget if smokers reformed and weren’t there to plug the holes? – but that’s a separate issue, and in the meantime, no one will utter a word if they’re slugged again by whatever means.
But forcing the overweight to pay more for heath cover is way beyond the pale. No amount of smarmy double-talk about ‘motivation to lose weight for the sake of your health’ can disguise the fact that this is discrimination. Does anyone choose to be overweight? I don’t think so! And most of those who are, already hate themselves for it enough, without being singled out for what amounts to a fine.
It’s also – dare I say it – classist. Once again, the overweight ‘haves’ will barely notice a few extra dollars on their monthly premiums, but for others, it will one more burden that in fact makes weight-loss even further out of reach. Because dieting isn’t cheap. When our estimable treasurer lost weight (as he did), he could afford the prawns, the fresh salmon, the poached chicken breast and quality fruit and veg guaranteed to do the trick, but others aren’t so lucky. You can’t work a full day on a stick of celery and a caraway seed, and carbs are cheap. Higher premiums on health care? No apples for you, mate! How self-defeating is that?
And just as a matter of interest, how will this new measure be enforced? Will you need a doctor’s certificate (another fee) to prove that your BMI measures up? Will you need to visit your health insurer’s nearest store to be weighed in? Once a year? (Mine is an hour’s drive away, but if you live out past the black stump somewhere, heaven help you!) There’ll be no more joining online, obviously, and lots more paperwork for all concerned. What a good idea!
So all in all, it seems to me that this projected money-saving, revenue-raising measure will have one overwhelming result: thousands will drop their health cover altogether and rely on a public healthcare system already staggering under the weight of financial penny-pinching.
The only bell that will save this government from an orgy of classism, greed and sheer stupidity is one that rings in their heads and cries ‘FOUL’. And I can’t see that happening. Their complacency is impenetrable.